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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Medium rare

Sometimes what you think is a massive find turns out to be only medium-sized.

I was at an estate sale the other day, and I ran across an olive green vase with a clear base that looked really interesting.  When I examined it, I found a triangular label, but it was very small and worn, and the only thing I could make out was the word “Finland,” even with the +3.25 readers that I always carry in my purse (a necessity for most of us over 60).  Of course, the thought immediately ran through my head that I’d found something produced in the 1950s by Iittala…maybe a Tapio Wirkkala or a Timo Sarpaneva.  How cool would that be?  And for only $3.00!!!!

I paid for my unbelievable find and headed for the house…and my set of magnifying glasses.  Looking slightly like Sherlock Holmes, minus the hat, pipe and sideburns, I crouched over the vase with the super-size magnifier (the one with the even higher power inset), and a logo became visible, and underneath it I could barely read R-u-h…no, maybe R-i-i-h.  Adjusting the lamp and tilting the vase at just the right angle, I could finally decipher the words “RIIHIMAKI SUOMI FINLAND.”

Speaking not a word of Finnish and knowing only slightly more about glass, I did some research and found out that Riihimaki is the name of a town in Finland where a glassworks factory was started in 1910 by the Kolehmainen family.  The name was changed in 1937 to Riihimaen Lasi Oy.  In 1985 the family sold it and its name was changed again, and in 1990 it closed. 

With a little more detective work, I was able to determine that my piece was designed by Tamara Aladin, who started working for the company in 1959 and, along with Aimo Okkolin, Helena Tynell and Nanny Still, acted as a chief designer for the next 20 years.

Instead of being a 1950s design, however, my vase was more than likely produced for the 1976 Export collection, so it didn’t have quite the mid-century significance I had hoped, but it’s still a lovely piece and in perfect condition…and $3.00 was still a bargain, even if it wasn’t a total steal.

A Wirkkala in a similar shape

A Wirkkala in a similar color

A Tamara Aladin in blue

My not-so-valuable Tamara Aladin vase
c. 1976

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